Getting to Banff
The Town of Banff is located approximately 138 kilometres (85 mi), from Calgary, Alberta, a city of over a million people that boasts a busy international airport with many direct flights from all over the globe. Banff is situated on the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1), a highway that crosses Canada from the west to the east coast and actually runs the entire length of Banff National Park. While many people choose to take the scenic drive from Vancouver, British Columbia to Banff and enjoy the incredible scenery and recreation options, this is a very long trip of over 1000 kilometres. Accordingly, the majority of people start from Calgary given its proximity and the availability of flights.
Getting to Banff from Calgary requires either driving or taking a bus. While Banff does have a landing strip, we're sure you will agree when you drive past it that, unless you are bush pilot, you probably do not want to land there! The journey from Calgary to Banff takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the transportation option you choose and whether you slow down to enjoy the scenery.
RENTING / HIRING A CAR
If you are capable of driving and/or if you are travelling in a group of two or more, renting a car will likely be the most affordable option. In addition to simple economics, unless you are planning to spend all of your time right in the Town of Banff, you will need to have a vehicle to really experience and enjoy all that Banff (both the Town and the National Park) have to offer.
The Calgary International Airport has the full range of car rental options - Avis, Budget, Hertz, Alamo, etc. - and you can rent/hire your car directly in the terminal building. To ensure you get the best rates and ensure availability, it is usually best to book your car online before you arrive.
Book your rental car with Expedia, which compares the prices from all major rental companies, by clicking below:
DRIVING DIRECTIONS TO BANFF
Once you are set with your car, the driving directions to Banff are as follows (please also see the map below):
Leaving the Airport, turn left (north) onto Barlow Trail, which is the first set of lights. Then, turn immediately left onto Airport Trail at the next set of lights. Continue driving straight until you reach a dead end and turn left. You will now be merging onto the Queen Elizabeth Parkway (Hwy 2), the Calgary portion of which is called Deerfoot Trail.
After driving about 8km, take the 16th Avenue North exit to the right (west). It may not look like it, but you are now on the Trans Canada Highway. The good news is that all you have to do now is drive straight through Calgary on 16th Avenue and continue driving straight until you hit Banff in about 125kms!
After you have driven past Canmore (a lovely town just outside of the National Park gates) and through the Banff National Park gates, there are two exits for Banff. If you take the first exit and follow the signs, you will end up driving straight onto Banff Avenue, which is Banff's main street. If you happen to miss this exit, don't worry: another exit for Banff is just a couple of kilometres down the road.
Remember that in Banff you drive and trot on the right side of the road, although this photo shows one of the few times that Mountain Sheep abide by that rule.
The other transportation option to get to Banff is to take the bus. The most convenient option is to take the Banff Airporter, which can be booked in the Airport terminal as well and travels to Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise. Rates vary on how far you are going, but the one way rate from the Calgary Airport to Banff is approximately $54, and $100 return (both prices include tax).
For those wishing to avoid cars and buses all together, there is also the option of taking a scenic train trip from Calgary or Banff to Vancouver, which gives you a chance to explore not only Banff, but also the rugged mountains and scenery of British Columbia. Rocky Mountaineer offers just such a train trip.
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